garden

muck and splendor

I've gotten lazy about blogging lately. I think if I could write in the mornings it would be easier, because I always have words in my head on my walks to work. I sometimes manage to jot a few things down on my lunch breaks but that time is mainly consumed by the very necessary eating of my lunch, and I am a slow eater.

It is almost garden season here on the coast. Some people might be out puttering already, or wisely starting seedlings indoors. I'm content to revel in the spring flowers and cherry blossoms everywhere and let the soil dry out a little. The garden is very wet and mucky, and the muck is cold and wet. Yes, I can wait. But we have had the 2016 West Coast Seeds catalogue propped on our kitchen island for weeks, open to onions, juicy carrots, beans, bright perennials, bee and butterfly wildflower blends, asparagus and artichokes, and all sorts of salad greens.

So, the cherry blossoms! Since my mention of them around this time last year, their splendor faded in my mind as the months and seasons gave way to other things. There is perhaps no other season quite so spectacular in Victoria as when all the cherry tree-lined streets (much of downtown and seemingly entire neighborhoods as well) are decked out - nay, billowing, with small pink flowers. It's cheering, like a wholesome month-long valentines for the soul. Or something. In any case, they are undeniably delightful.

tiny fortress

I'm at home today, on my first official "earned day off" and I am all but spinning in circles as I struggle to spend it well. I had big plans mapped out yesterday, but my mind has gone foggy as to what they were. There is a distinct chill in the air now. The house was cold all morning and my movements were slow. Now the windows are open and a pleasant breeze traverses the room. I let the rabbits roam, not expecting that they would harass the poor old cat. Fortunately, they gave up easily and each pet is calmly resting in her own sunbeam now. Last night, I locked myself out of the house and sat in the garden. I've done this once before, but this time I pulled the knob tight with an intentional hand. You see, when stacks of dirty dishes sprawl across my kitchen (how does this happen so quickly?), it makes me want to scream. Usually I have the wherewithal to roll up my sleeves and banish them to the dishrack, but occasionally a long day and insufficient snacking will tilt me in the direction of rash emotion and terse words. Rather than scream, I scrammed. I sat at the little table in the back of the garden and wrote as I watched crows move eastward towards the gorge and pink ice-cream-castle clouds settle on the horizon. After a while, after having observed a wren light on the rooftop for a mid-flight song and a scarlet-flushed purple finch seek seed among the arugula pods, and having noted a garden spider's tiny fortress in the cosmos and coriander, I began to shiver more than a little, and knocked rather sheepishly at the garden door.

We had several weeks of deliciously rainy weather and grass and dandelions are coming up everywhere. I am feeling similarly refreshed. Here is what I would like for the months to come: dinner parties/potlucks/cooking and eating in company, forest hikes and foraging for autumn mushrooms, apples in abundance, time spent with loved ones, garlic in the ground, and to cultivate an active and creative lifestyle.

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chaos sorted, tomatoes roasted

Ah September, I love this month! We've got our garden back in hand and are getting it ready for a cool, rainy winter. We learned a lot about gardens this summer, namely to not alternate rows of chard and kale because the kale shades out and stunts the chard, that a little goes a long way in the seed-scattering department, and that roasted tomatoes are a lifesaver. Having to toss moldering heirloom tomatoes for not having dealt with them quick enough is depressing. Luckily I came across Alana Chernila's roasted tomato recipe in time to save most of them. There was a little more to it, but in essence it came down to this: halve and core the tomatoes (I quartered some of the big ones) and lay them out on a parchment -lined baking sheet. Toss on some peeled garlic cloves, a touch of sea salt and black pepper, some fresh herbs and a drizzle of olive oil, and slow-roast for 5 hours in a 275° oven. I roasted mine in the evening so just left them in the oven (which I turned off) overnight to cool. Once they have cooled, scoop the tomatoes and liquid into a freezer bag and freeze, or keep in the fridge up to a few days. To make a lovely sauce, dice and sauté a yellow onion, add thawed tomatoes and simmer 30 minutes.

The past few weeks have involved intense sorting. This book came into our lives and has inspired a world of good, but also a lot of work and chaos in the process. For several weeks, it was tense (or I was) and I kept my head down, plowing along in my quest to create order. Needless to say it was not a great time for personal relationships as the thought of someone seeing our house with stuff strewn all over was horrific. I am fairly strongly affected by my external environment, so living in a mess, even a temporary one, caused great unhappiness. At this point I feel the need to point out that the process was dragged out because everyday tasks and obligations kept interfering- we did not spend several weeks locked in our house sorting through piles of belongings. I can happily say that the free-pile on our front lawn is dwindling and our house feels (and looks) so much better.

The next challenge I am facing is also the best: to relax. Due to the topics mentioned above (garden, house, chaos!), and also my job which can be stressful for me as it isn't well suited to my personality, I've been feeling pretty overwhelmed lately. Not to say that there aren't still plenty of tasks to check off on the kitchen chalkboard, there are, but they are in the realm of reasonable. I set up a mini studio for myself and am really looking forward to time spent quietly dabbling with paints. In anticipation of this glorious reprieve, I also brought home a small armful of books from the library. Friends! I'm sorry for being lame this last month, but it's better now, I promise. Let's find a misty forest to walk in, and maybe even some chanterelles, and drink tea and draw and giggle. Please, soon.

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